The 4-Episode Test, Fall 2013 Edition, Part 2: The Blacklist, Hostages, S.H.I.E.L.D., and More

Hoo boy, now we're gettin' cookin'! The creators of many of this year's new fall shows are dressing their baby programs in "4 EPISODES!" onesies and posting photos of them on Facebook—and we're either hitting the 'like' button or writing "meh" or "u should of got canceled" in the comments. What we're trying to say is—well, you know what we're trying to say, right? It's time for another round of the ol' TV.com 4-Episode Test™! We kicked things off last week with verdicts on Dads, Sleepy Hollow, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and now it's time for a second fourth look at some of this year's biggies: The Blacklist, HostagesMarvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and more. Read on to find out what we're sticking with and what we're deleting from our DVRs, and then check back next week for Part 3!


Back in the Game



Episode 1: ★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Keep watching (or DVR-ing).

I actually really, really like this show. The pilot wrapped me up in its familiar arms and since then I've enjoyed each passing episode with just as much enthusiasm. As a half-hour comedy, it doesn't require a lot of thought or commitment. I've laughed out loud several times during my stint on the bench with the Angles, who are easily some of the best kids on TV right now. Sure, Back in the Game deals in familiar sitcom tropes like Danny's character's girl troubles, or Terry's need for a girl's night out, but then The Cannon takes the team to a prison for some lessons in baseball and it's funny. In fact, James Caan is terrific. He's reason enough to stick around. Episode 2 was just as delightful as the pilot (and may or may not have made me tear up when it was revealed that The Cannon hasn't changed the master bedroom in his house since his wife died), and although Episodes 3 and 4 weren't as great as the first two, they all still had their moments. —Kaitlin Thomas

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Go Angles! #BackintheGame passes @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


The Blacklist



Episode 1: ★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Watch with caution.

Despite some intense facial expressions from series star James Spader, The Blacklist hasn't improved in the three episodes that've aired since its watchable pilot. The biggest problem is that the show's bad guys—who should be the big draw after Spader—aren't all that compelling. After a plain-old-boring terrorist in the pilot, the next three targets were a grab bag of fishing for something that works. One killed people by going through the harrowing process of staging massive disasters, one was just Chinese, and one dissolved bodies for criminals as a "cleaner," yet kept records of all the people he made disappear, which canceled out the fact that he made people disappear. There's still entertainment value in The Blacklist, with its guns and speeding black SUVs, but some of it is so dumb that it doesn't matter. And the big mystery at the center of the series (why did Red choose Keen?) has already been dodged several times, and will continue to be dodged until the show faces cancellation (which won't be soon, given its Voice-aided ratings). The staple disclaimer of "If it fixes its problems, it could be good" applies here, but that looks more unlikely with each passing minute. —Tim Surette

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#TheBlacklist is both fun/frustrating, hence the "watch with caution" advisory via @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


The Crazy Ones


Episode 1: ★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★

Verdict: Don't watch, but keep an ear out for news of whether the improvement we saw in Episode 4 becomes a regular thing.

Like its plucky advertising protagonists barely making a deadline for a corporate conglomerate's sexy new ad campaign, The Crazy Ones put up a last-minute heave at the four-episode buzzer with a very enjoyable half-hour. Episode 4 was (mostly) a bottle episode that kept the outside riff-raff to a minimum and focused on the main cast as a group. The unusual structure was great; there were no wacky B-stories, and each character had their own mini-arc that meshed with the others'. There was even a good meta gag about passing time involving clock hands spinning around! Basically, it was everything that The Crazy Ones was not in its first three episodes—but currently there's no reason to believe that it will become the norm. Unless the show drastically changes, I'm guessing this comedy will we back to its emotionally manipulative abuse of ducklings and non-stop mood-enhancing score in not time. And can we PLEASE get rid of the blooper end tags? What is this, 1997? —Tim

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#TheCrazyOnes kicked things up a notch in Ep. 4. Will @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test verdict of "quit watching" hold? http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


The Goldbergs



Episode 1: ★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Your call, but we're leaning slightly toward keep watching.

The Goldbergs has shown a marked improvement since the characters stopped all the shouting they were doing in the pilot, peaking in Episode 3 when father Murray and son Barry worked together to sell furniture. But the series hasn't quite made the leap all the way to "weekly watch," as evidenced by a mellower fourth episode involving a stale plot about finding a woman for grandpa (the B-story involving Adam and Barry was better). The Goldbergs does have a strong heart and some family sensibility, but until it punches up its plots, the show could go either way. —Tim

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Once everyone stopped shouting, ABC's #TheGoldbergs improved enough to (mostly) pass @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


Hostages



Episode 1: ★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Be strong, set it free.

From the very beginning, we wondered whether or not the premise of CBS's Hostages could sustain itself for the show's 15-episode order. Unsurprisingly, after just four episodes, the show's solution to that problem has been to jam a whole bunch of boring, rote side plots into the package while generally stalling on Dr. Sanders actually operating on the president. Every family member has their own lame secret that isn't particularly interesting and it just makes me sad to see Hilarie Burton and Billy Brown wasted in such thankless supporting roles. On the bright side, Toni Collette is really good and Dylan McDermott has somehow dialed back his seething cool-guy routine into something a bit more casual. Hostages has remained consistent in quality since the pilot, meaning each episode has featured a few moments of intrigue mixed with quite a bit of zzzz. Episode 4 represented a slight uptick in quality, but the problem is that it was built entirely on an escape plan—and although it was moderately thrilling, it was never going to work. The hour ended on a solid cliffhanger that will probably bring me back for Episode 5, but I know I'm stupid for sticking around. Don't be stupid like me. Let it go. —Cory Barker

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CBS's #Hostages fails @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test with a "quit watching" verdict, cliffhanger or not. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.



Episode 1: ★★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★

Verdict: Keep watching (even if you only tune in so you can complain about the show later)!

Going in, I think there were a lot of misconceptions about what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was supposed to be, and I think the biggest problem with the series is that, despite airing on ABC at 8pm, it's not your standard TV fare. It's a comic book show; there's some backstory involved. And even though the series doesn't require previous knowledge of the Marvel Universe, it does help if you have it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is still 90 percent procedural, 10 percent serialized storytelling, but that's not a bad thing right now. However, as is the often the case with procedurals, the show still needs some time to find itself. After a stellar pilot, S.H.I.E.L.D. has struggled to keep up its quality level, but it's slowly getting there. Each of the last two episodes has been better than the one before, the characters are being developed, season-long arcs are beginning to take shape, and Joss Whedon's comedy is still present throughout. S.H.I.E.L.D. will probably never be for everybody, but if it's even remotely your thing, it's definitely a show you should continue to watch. —Kaitlin

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#AgentsofSHIELD isn't perfect, but it's still a "keep watching" on @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


Mom



Episode 1: ★★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Watch it if you <3 Allison Janney, but it's not a must-see comedy.

Mom is a straightforward Chuck Lorre comedy. It's predictable, and it makes you chuckle, but nothing about it stands out or suggests that the show will ever be anything more than what it is on the surface, which is "pretty average." Anna Faris is reliable as lead character Christy, and Allison Janney is wonderful as Christy's mom Bonnie, but the latter statement pretty much a given. If anyone in the supporting cast stands out, it's the son, Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal), but maybe that's because the show really underuses Nate Corddry as Christy's boss/ex-lover. In fact, Mom hasn't really found a way to incorporate the restaurant scenes with the rest of show, so it's always jarring when the scenes change. Let me put it this way: If I was stranded on a desert island and Mom was the only thing on my TV, yeah, I'd watch it. But currently, it's not going to bump anything else off my DVR. It really depends on your TV schedule and how much you value literally laughing out loud at your comedy. —Kaitlin

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CBS's #Mom isn't in a time out, but it isn't Parent of the Year either, says @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D


Trophy Wife



Episode 1: ★★★★ | Episode 2: ★★★★★ | Episode 3: ★★★★★ | Episode 4: ★★★★★

Verdict: Keep watching, and hope that ABC helps it out.

After a solid pilot (especially by pilot standards), Trophy Wife's second and third episodes went a little limp—but still showed a promising voice. And that voice was shouting in Episode 4, "The Breakup," where the series really came together and figured out how to give every character a story and spread the laughs around. It's a sign of a good series when it's difficult to decide which character is your favorite, and four episodes in, I'm still stuck on that question. Even the kids are funny in this! Trophy Wife was a keeper from the start, but after I saw the excellent fourth episode, it jumped much higher on my list. Now if only ABC would schedule the show behind Modern Family where it belongs, so that more people would watch it... —Tim

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#TrophyWife is a gem. Def. a keeper based on @TVdotcom's 4-Episode Test. Put it after ModFam where it belongs, ABC! http://bit.ly/1ex1l7D



PREVIOUSLY: 

The 4-Episode Test, Fall 2013 Edition, Part 1: DadsSleepy HollowThe Michael J. Fox Show, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine


Comments (261)
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Only shows we watch on this list are The Blacklist and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - we don't bother with the rest.
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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is childish, with bad acting, bad scripts and dumb humor. If that doesn't improve, it will eventually go away. But being a Marvel/ABC show, someone is going to keep throwing money at it for quite awhile.
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Gotta love the people that complain and bitch about shows being boring, not enough action, not what they thought it was going to be. I, for one, am glad when a show isn't what I thought it was going to be, as it shows, that whoever's making it is doing something right. Trophy Wife was a show that took me by surprise, being an actual funny family based sitcom. I am well and truly sick of the copy and paste formulaic shows out there that do the same week in week out, and boy there are a lot of em like that. Agents of SHIELD is another I am really liking that a lot of people on here seem to not like because of the fact that it isn't superheroes and sfx all the time. That's precisely why I like it, despite me being a big superhero fan. I am a story fan first, and really like a well written slow-burner, the action and main story behind everything not spelled out clearly in a bursts of action in the first five minutes.
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I don't agree with all these choices, but that's okay. We're all entitled to our own opinion.
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I really wanted to like Marvel Agents of Shield as I love comic books and am a huge fan of Arrow. Unfortunately Marvel Agents of Shield has a terrible cast, the dialogue is ridiculous and the plots are bad even for comic book standards. Arrow works because the characters and story lines are nuanced and have depth. Marvel Agents of Shield is a pile of diarrhea and if it succeeds there will be more crap like it in the future.
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Marvel Agents of Shield is so boring. Trophy Wife and Blacklist are on my watching list - for now. So far there isn´t a really fantastic new show, that I would hate to see canceled.
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I actually like the crazy ones. It's not hilarious but it's funny and it's different from what CBS usually programs and so far I like the character's madness and the level of absurdity in each episode.
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I really enjoy Robin Williams, but "the crazy ones" does not work for me.
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Was surprised I really liked Trophy Wife. I watched it just for Bradley Whitford and Malin Akerman, but I really get a kick out of the kid, Bert! lol...
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Marvel Agents of Shield is awesome, The Crazy Ones I have gave on !!!
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I agree about Hilarie Burton but it doesn't matter I will keep watching Hostages.

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seems like the response from most sheep is comedies suck and dramas are awesome.
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Wow The Blacklist is clearly the best new show this season and is way more complex than you take it for.
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Sleepy Hollow is the best new show, then The Originals
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Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist and The Originals... All great and different from one another, therefore it's difficult to say which one is the best.
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Just started catching up on shield which is surprisingly good, might do the same with the blacklist. I cant get myself to give up on hostages but itll be cancelled soon enough anyway. All the comedies were meh, I dont see what everyone is raving about for trophy wife.
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Of this list, I found three that I disagree with.
1) Blacklist: The show is engaging on all fronts and although it is implausible for someone on the FBIs most wanted to get a deal of immunity, the concept of the main character being a master manipulator makes the show all the more believable. "The FBI works for me now".

2) The Crazy Ones
Not sure that this show should get a pass, but definitely not a red X. The characters get better with each episode and are more complex than typical sitcoms. I will admit that the pilot was pretty much awful and if the show has any hope, they will need to recut their ads to feature current episodes and not stuff rehashed from the pilot.

3)Marvel: Agents of Shield
I will keep watching this show because I am a comic book fan.... but I also enjoy good storytelling, character development, and timing... All of which this show is lacking. I like Whedon's work, but this is not his strongest. The characters are not strong enough and the pilot was not that amazing. I haven't found anything really great about the show that makes me want to stay at home to watch it. Although I am enjoying it now, I can see myself forgetting this show. I want to be addicted to it, but its just not that special.
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The crazy ones would be good if Robin Williams stopped overacting or just left..had Hostages on dvr but getting deleted tonight, trophy wife lasted all of 9 minutes before getting deleted, blacklist needs to start answering some questions or it will just get repetetive and stupid, mom lasted about 9 minutes too before the canned laughter after every sentence got too much, (same as Sean), scanned through Goldbergs but seen it all before, shield is ok so far but needs to get a bit more exciting..
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Back in the Game - no see
The Blacklist - love this show, but ep3 is really bad
The Crazy Ones - good cast, their performance is a joy to watch
The Goldbergs - watch-able
Hostages - like to see how this story can hold for the whole season
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D - thk is the dullest show on this list, from the actors/actress to the storyline, nothing really stand out, pilot is terrible, ep 2-4 also dun hav much improvement, forgot the story right after watching
Mom - watch-able
Trophy Wife - very interesting
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You guys have no idea! I don't think you could recognise a good tv show if it smacked you in the face, the only decent tv show out of those you chose is Blacklist. But it's pointless me telling you that. given the first part of this comment.
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Staff
THANKS
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Don't you just love constructive criticism that carefully lays out an argument and provides supporting evidence? Lol
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the goldbergs has won me over. i really didnt want to watch, but the wife did.
ep 1 kinda sucked, but 2-4 were great.
still watching SHIELD too. decent show & Sky is FINE!
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I love The Blacklist!!! James Spader makes that show. I don't care if they just have him reading the phone book. I would still tune in! ; )
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That's actually our big issue with the show. He's super charismatic and everyone else around him pales in comparison
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There should be a poll as well that looks at what shows you never watched in the first place!
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Hostages failed the first episode when nothing happened, no one died and boring sub-plots were introduced. Blacklist, as mentioned, needs better antagonists and more focus on characters rather than procedural, shallow plots and explosive cars.
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Wish you guys did this with British shows like Atlantis as well.
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One was just Chinese.

That's hilarious. Too bad, I like Spader.

Boy, am I smart that I don't watch any of these shows - even a still of Robin Williams' smug, smarmy face makes me puke a little in my mouth - or am I smart that I don't watch any of these shows?

Yes, I'm VERY smart that I don't watch any of these shows.
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Agents of shield, episode 4 has improved a bit, but still not up to the standard that many viewers have expected. I seriously doubt they will get another season.
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I'll keep watching Agents of shield. I nearly dropped out during episode 3, but episode 4 was better.
For other shows, I'm giving up on Atlantis (way too simple) but I'll certainly keep watching "The Wrong Mans" which is excellent. About the black list, going for episode 2 & 3 now.
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Didn't even look at hostages. Can't see it working how long can you drag a hostage situation out in a series. I guess though they made prison break have more than one prison break.
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""u should of got canceled" in the comments. What we're trying to say is—well, you know what we're trying to say, right?"

No I don't. Is the bad english ment to be ironic or something?
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I want sleepy hallow, the blacklist and marvel agents of shield
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The only one I tried in this list was SHIELD, and, well...

I don't know what to do with it. I don't care about Coulson or Skye. In fact, I find her downright annoying, and I wish they would push Coulson back to a background character the way he was in the movies. I enjoy the other characters, but because they're being squashed because those two mains, I feel like we're just not getting very much out of them. The storylines are interesting, but not interesting enough.

I don't know. I'm disappointed. Not really being a big fan of Whedon, I wasn't expecting quality gold, but I had hoped he would win me over with a show that is completely in my wheelhouse. Oh well. I guess I'll do the tune-in and DVR dance, decide at the moment if I want to watch or not.
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I didn't like Skye's character from the first episode she is so inexperienced it makes me wonder why did these guys want her on the team in the first place
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I love Maggie Lawson so I'll keep watching Back in the Game but Trophy Wife is my favorite, well second behind Agents of Shield, new ABC show of the season.
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I'm on the fence about Back in the Game, because I find it very predictable, although allright to watch. Also about Mom, as I find the humor to be too easy, but I sincerely love the dynamic between Christy and her mom.
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i love the blooper reels at the end of "the crazy ones", i will watch anything with sarah michelle until the end of time.
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Personally I think Blacklist is a great show. Yes they need to fix a few things but what show doesn't. It has a very strong story and if they keep it interesting it should all fall into place well. It reminds me of Person of Interest when it first started and once that show got wheels it was a sure winner like I believe this show can be.
Back in the Game is awesome to watch with my son, he really loves the show and he is 8 and I love the show also so I am pretty sure any father and son that enjoy baseball will enjoy this show. It brings me back to my little league days and my son is in Little league now and loves anything Baseball.
SHIELD is what it is and we all knew it would be good but the sky's the limit for this show, they need to get just a small bit more serious but keep the humor right where it is and I think it might need to get a little darker as well but even as is it is a winner!
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"...they need to fix a few things..."

No, just one thing - replace the writers.
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I can't believe SHIELD is getting so much approval. While watching that show all I can think is that it was intended for a very, very young audience. If not, the writers are talking down to us with the expectation that we are absolute idiots who can only welcome the most tired dialogue and cliché plot elements. As a long time Marvel fan, I looked forward to and really wanted to enjoy that series, too.
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I agree, also!!! SHIELD is simply stuck between a rock and a hard place. The core leadership that makes the concept thrive and run full bloom in the comics is, unfortunately, not in the tv series. It's a rudderless operation of boring, inexperienced personnel and cheap production values.

Another problem is that fans are suggesting something big, such as, an arc that involves a big threat. I personally think that's implausible. Let's face it -- this series cannot have a big time world beating villain without bringing Nick Fury's presence into the show. Fury would involve himself in the action!!! And that's not going to happen for the possible exception of cameos.

SHIELD needs new blood, better writing, and a lot more sophistication. But I don't think that's going to come from Disney, I'm afraid. I was hoping for done-in-one episodes of different agents like Peggy Carter from the '40's, agent Jasper Sitwell, Bobbi Morse, Clay Quartermain, Maria Hill and other familiars from the comics. Do 12 done-in-one episodes with different agents in their own solo adventure for half the season and then from there have the fans/viewers vote for which agents introduced would make the perfect SHIELD team for the next season.

All I'm saying is that SHIELD is a big, yet fictional, organization, and therefore, should have a competent, credible, and formidable squad of agents/spys, not kids who are wet behind the ears. This organization is Marvel's version of the Navy Seals on steroids!!!!
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Well that's what you get when SHIELD's reviewer is a self-identified Whedonite; we weren't likely to get an unbiased review of AoS, and her weekly reviews show it.
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I'm with you on this. I don't get the hype or appeal at all. The bad acting and down talk really annoy me.
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The Goldbergs, Back in the Game & The Crazy Ones are the best new sitcoms. Sorry MJF - I like you, but the show wasn't as funny as I'd hoped.

SHIELD is decent too.

Trophy Wife is awful.

Hostages I haven't even bothered to watch, and the remaining two are just meh.
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The Goldbergs makes me feel good when I watch it, simple tv. I also like Hostages, it's crazy but I like it.
Mom is the worst, and I think it is because of the laugh track; I can't get past it.
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I like Blacklist...Crazy Ones is ....ok...Marvel is awesome...but i think i am giving up on Once Upon A Time in Wonderland....so fake and boring...
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I can't get into Once Upon a Time In Wonderland either, very boring.
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Hostages improves and you want it cancelled. Are you part of the no patience generation that wants it now?
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Hostages is way too shallow. I try and try to get into it but it just moves at a pace I cannot understand, it needs more depth and needs to move a little faster. Maybe if they can do that then I could stand to sit through it but until then I will pass and if it improves then I watch the whole season but as of now I vote for cancling it.
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Staff
No one said anything about it deserving to be cancelled. Just said you should stop watching it.
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I had high hopes about Agent of SHIELD... got a little bored, I watch it while I play Candy Crush.
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A little harsh on The crazy ones! Hope that show sticks around for many years
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I am sticking with The Blacklist. I know it's dumb, but it doesn't have any competition in its time slot (for me). I love James Spader, and the rest of the cast seem to be really good, I just wish the writing was better.

I'm also sticking with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. even though it has been a little disappointing. I still enjoy it, and I will probably enjoy it even more if they ever give us some more character development. I especially liked the last episode.
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This is exactly the same as my verdict! TV.com staff, you have a great taste in TV. Also, great minds think alike.
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Typical: Americans and their fascination with DUMB cartoon adaptations. GROW UP ALREADY!
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Heh! Typical: Someone who's so immature he hasn't yet learned how hypocritical it is to judge others just because he doesn't agree with their tastes.
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Not sure I see the hypocrisy. Arrogance yes, but no hypocrisy.
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I'm going to stick around with The Crazy Ones. I thought Lauren's poem was pretty funny. It's not a perfect show but it could get there and it's good for when you have 20 minutes to kill.
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I don't understand your fascination with Agents os Shield. That show is horrible. I can't tell whose fault it is though Joss Whedon's dialogue or the terrible acting.
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I think the acting is worse than dialogue even though the dialogue is pretty bad as well. When the acting is good you don't notice the bad dialogue as much because capable actors find ways to make it work. I just wish people were more honest with themselves. If this didn't have Marvel or Whedon attached to it wouldn't have so much blind support for it.
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Well, it is from Whedon, and that's all that matters obviously. Sad fact, but a true one.
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Totally agree except I think Blacklist is still the best of this season's new shows. Hostages is bad - it's just not a sustainable premise - the only thing I still feel suspense over in that show is that I worry they're going to kill the dog for real. Trophy Wife is the best of the 30-minute comedies IMO also. Good ratings all around.
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I can't believe you defend Shield.This show is a major let down
It took a successful franchise and turn it to a complete boring crap of a show
ABC need to dump it or reboot it fast before they ruin the franchise
(P.S Hostages is not that bad and I find it quite an intresting show)
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I agree. I can't fathom how SHIELD got a tick over Hostages. Hostages is a MUCH BETTER QUALITY show. I have lost a lot of fate and respect for TV.COM's staff this season.
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Agreed.
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I actually prefer hostages over Agents of the Shield
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I am gonna continue to watch hostages till or if they cancel it
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